Patriots & under-25 talent

Tom Brady is a rare case of a player who can sustain elite play well into his 30s, and he's the oldest player on a Patriots roster that has a balance of experience and young talent.

In a piece now posted on ESPN.com, Football Outsiders writer Rivers McCown breaks down the NFL by the talent on each team that is under the age of 25, leading off with the Seattle Seahawks and quarterback Russell Wilson.

The Patriots, led by Rob Gronkowski on offense and Chandler Jones and others on defense, rank ninth on McCown's list, and second among AFC teams.

Writes McCown:

"Start with the best tight end in the NFL in Rob Gronkowski; injury prone or not, he's in the discussion as one of the most valuable players in the league. Surrounding him on offense are the 1-2 punch of Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen in the backfield, which should help New England replace some of Aaron Hernandez's production. Add a budding Pro Bowl left tackle in Nate Solder, and even if the Patriots get no value out of Ryan Mallett, they've got more than enough offensive talent to survive without Hernandez and Wes Welker.

"Defensively, a youth movement could propel New England higher in future years. The Patriots got a solid rookie season out of defensive end Chandler Jones, who notched six sacks and 26.5 hurries. Dont'a Hightower and Tavon Wilson both had rough rookie debuts but should see improvement in their second seasons. Alfonzo Dennard was a seventh-round steal on the field but his being pulled over for drunk driving while on probation makes him a question mark going forward. Jamie Collins had one of our best SackSEER scores of 2013, and Armond Armstead made our top 10 prospects list."

The Patriots' ability to maintain a balance of young talent (which often aids in salary-cap considerations because it typically means players working on rookie contracts) and proven veterans has long been a pillar of their success. The 2012 rookie class provided immediate impact play, and the Patriots are hopeful that those players can make a leap this season while their newest rookies can find a role on this roster.

To see McCown's full list (Insider content), CLICK HERE.